The Cantini Mosaic is a public art installation created by Virgil Cantini in 1964, and installed in a pedestrian underpass beneath Bigelow Boulevard near Chatham Street in Pittsburgh’s Central Business District. It consists of 28 abstract sculptural mosaic panels, designed as two sections of 14 panels, made of cast concrete and glass tiles. The panels were intentionally installed in a deliberate order and arrangement for people passing through in either direction.
The art piece was commissioned by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority specifically for the pedestrian underpass as a part of the Lower Hill Redevelopment program.
In 2017, the City of Pittsburgh approved plans for the "Cap" Project, a new three-acre public space spanning a structure over a portion of the I-579 Crosstown Boulevard. This project was funded by a federal grant given to the City of Pittsburgh, partnering with the Sports and Exhibition Authority. The area to be affected by this project included the site of the Cantini Mosaic. Final designs for the Cap Project, shown at the November 2017 Art Commission hearing, can be found here. This presentation included a courtesy review of the Cantini Mosaic.
Soon after, a group of preservationists contacted the Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) about their interest in saving the mosaics. Due to the federal funding in place for the I-579 CAP Project, the Section 106 consultation process was initiated. Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires that federal agencies assess the effects of projects or permits on historic properties. Determining if a property is eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) is one of the steps in the consultation process.
The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), delegated to manage the Section 106 process on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), invited individuals to create the Consulting Parties to help inform the NRHP eligibility review. Based on the original information submitted, PennDOT determined that the Cantini Mosaic Tunnel did not meet the criteria to be eligible for the NRHP. Later, the Consulting Parties provided additional information regarding the Cantini Mosaic Tunnel’s historical significance and in May 2018, FHWA and PA SHPO agreed that the Tunnel is eligible for listing in the NRHP as a public works project of high artistic value.
As a result, PennDOT (on behalf of the FHWA) determined that the demolition and removal of the Cantini Mosaic Tunnel would have an adverse effect, and developed a programmatic agreement to resolve the adverse effects. This agreement outlines the requirement for the removal of the mosaic and its eventual relocation within five years. In late 2018, the agreement was signed by the City of Pittsburgh, the Sports and Exhibition Authority, FHWA, PA SHPO, and the Consulting Parties.
As part of the programmatic agreement, the signatories developed a “Character Defining Features” document to guide the identification and evaluation of potential locations for the reinstallation of the Cantini Mosaic. These guiding principles include:
- Publicly accessible (ideally in a City-owned space)
- Highly traveled pedestrian corridor
- Two vertical walls, of at least approximately 60’ in length and 8’ high
- Covered for protection from the elements
- Lighting to maximize reflectivity, through a potential combination of natural light, reflected light, and projected light
In April 2019, the Mosaic panels were removed and placed into City storage. Later that year, the tunnel was demolished to begin construction of the Cap.
In late 2020 E. Holdings, Inc was engaged by the City of Pittsburgh as a consultant and project coordinator to guide the process of identifying a new location for the reconceptualization of the Mosaic.
To learn more about the Mosaic and the Section 106 process, please visit these links:
A public meeting to review potential sites for the relocation and reconceptualization of the Mosaic will be held on August 2, 2021 at 11am via Zoom. Public comment regarding potential sites may be given at this meeting or by using the form below. Speakers will be limited to three minutes. Please register to give public comment by emailing your name to email@example.com, or use the "raise hand" function during the meeting.
To join the August 2 meeting:
Dial (for higher quality, dial a number based on your current location): US: +1 301 715 8592 or +1 312 626 6799 or +1 929 205 6099 or +1 253 215 8782 or +1 346 248 7799 or +1 669 900 6833
Webinar ID: 894 0994 0530